Tactics – How Thomas Partey completes Arteta’s jigsaw

Hey guys, the Partey started y’all. Crazy, no? by Joe Allysons

So I saw a few arguments in the transfer window that suggested, if we were to get Partey or Aouar, then the later was what we needed because “we lack creativity”.

This article is meant to dispel that myth as efficiently as it possibly can.

The idea that we NEED Aouar is premised on the whole concept that we need a creative force in midfield who should be a natural midfielder and sort of implies there’s no other way to improve the creativity in the team.

The Idea also seems to suggest that the team is extremely defensive, and a creative midfielder would be able to make us more attacking. I don’t agree with both premises and here is why.

To start with, I don’t understand why creativity should necessarily have to come from the midfield. Why exactly do we need a creative midfielder? “To play through-passes”? I’ve come to learn that the run makes the pass and therefore you don’t necessarily need a dedicated creative midfielder to play a through pass. We’ve seen Tierney, Xhaka, Luiz, Ceballos, Saka and Bellerin in just the first few games of the season thread their teammates through. That then negates the need for a dedicated person to do this job. I don’t think Xhaka’s pass to Pepe against Liverpool would have happened if Pepe hadn’t made a run. If he had stood still, the resulting pass would have been a stupidly overhit blind pass.

Okay, then, maybe you want more goals from midfield. That could be a valid point, but how many more? Is there no tactical setup in which arsenal midfielders could end up on the scoresheet? Looking at our play style right now, it actually looks more likely that the next person on the scoresheet will be Hector Bellerin because of how high up he’s being pushed when we have the ball. Against Sheffield, he was pushed even higher, literally playing as our right wide forward. Does Bukayo Saka count as a midfielder? He pushes up quite high and could get five or six goals this season. Xhaka, Partey, Ceballos, Elneny, the deep guys, It’s cool if they can get two goals each. They need to concentrate on the front 5 having the ball and not having to worry about getting hit on the break.

Ok then, how about a ball carrier in the middle. This is the weakest point of them all. After you have Ceballos, who is a pretty adept dribbler and can carry the ball, You now have Partey. He can carry it too. Even better, you could shift Willian inwards. I don’t know if you have all noticed, But Willian has barely played on the wing for Arsenal. The moment we have the ball, he tucks in and becomes a sort of number 10. That means you have another ball carrier in him. You have Bellerin, who is pretty good at keeping the ball at feet and getting forward. Question is; why do you need one right behind your striker? My answer is ‘you don’t’. I don’t know what yours is.

In Thomas Partey, we got exactly what we needed. A defensively solid high-quality player who’s really got us. We can now play so many different tactical setups simply because he’s here.

I do remember a time when I commended Ceballos for his role in the middle, but said Partey would perform it better. Now he’s here, I’m happy. I could say this is the closest thing we’ve had to a complete team since 2008 and I wouldn’t be lying.

I have wanted to write this article for a while now, but knowing how volatile our fanbase is, I figured it was better written after we signed Partey. I’d have appreciated Aouar, but I know one thing for a fact. He’d have just turned out to be like everyone else we have. Spinning around in midfield trying to find space, then passing it to Luiz.

Lastly, 3-4-3 isn’t any more defensive than 4-3-3. I actually feel like you guys look at formations on soccer apps and then wait for the results. It doesn’t really feel like you watch games. If you did, I’d wonder how you figure the formation is defensive. When we have the ball, we literally have only two centre backs defending and a sweeper keeper behind them. How is that defensive? We instantly have Tierney, Saka/Niles, Auba, Laca/Nketiah, Willian/Pepe, Bellerin all upfront when we have the ball. That’s six out of eleven players upfront.

If anyone has seen any one time that we’ve had the ball and Tierney has remained as a centre back, please remind me. More to that, all the six are as far upfront as they can possibly be and still be an effective passing option to their teammates. All the six are in front of our central midfielders. To be honest, I don’t think you could even achieve such offensive overloads with a 4-3-3.

I feel like this hanging on formations is making fans miss the point. Y’all aren’t watching the game. You just see figurines on a mobile app or your TV screen and instantly run off to your favourite blog to whine. You need to actually watch the game. Use your imagination and try to see what the coach is trying to achieve.

Thanks for reading. cheers.

Joe Allysons

Tags Arsenal tactics Partey


  1. Aren’t we getting too optimistic about just one midfielder?
    What if he takes time to adapt (Pepe)?
    What if he is out of form?

    I am excited but I hope we don’t over do it like he is the one to turn our fortunes around.

    I just hope it all works out for us. We deserve to be happy 😊

    1. Goonster, class is permanent and Thomas Partey has performed at the highest level for country and particularly for club against high quality players in the Champions League.
      I don’t expect him to take time to adapt or find form.
      The tracking back, tackling, ball winning and driving forward with ball at foot to find forward players with a pass is something Arsenal has missed for years.

      1. Agree. Also, he plays in a Simeone side. He’s more than up to the fight and can deal with the physicality. He’s an experienced player. Far more experienced than Pepe. I’m not worried about him adapting because I dont think he’ll need to do many things different. Already a complete player.

        1. Theres an article on sky sports called the rise of partey, give it a read very interesting and gives a great insight into he player we have bought, not just a ability but also talks about the kind of person he is, sounds VERY promising, exactly what were missing 👍

          1. I read it,good one!according to his former coach,not only are we getting a very good player and professional but also a great hard-working,humble, grateful, respectful,funny individual!he part owns a 4th tier spanish club,bringing players from all over Africa to give them a similar opportunity to the one he got as s young man, respect!

            1. Yes siamois!! Made for a very exciting read, he has the exact mindset we need in our midfield! Hopefully instill some of his mindset onto our other players 👍, cant wait to watch him play for us!!

            2. Thomas Partey is not the only highly commendable professional sports person, who undertakes charitable works and goes “under the radar”.
              All he needs now is a PR machine, to tell the world of his good works through social media.

    2. Hope Partey will add some considerable value to the team. The last 4 games have been poor and boring for Arsenal. We seem to be lacking in creativity. Creativity is a critical ingredient to winning games and sustained competitiveness in the Premier League. We will struggle to break teams without it. And it will be difficult to finish in top 4.

  2. Agree with you 100%

    Those who disagree are the Ozil fanatics that think Ozil is Arsenal and Arsenal is Ozil. They forget that Ozil’s best years are gone and that he can’t even create anymore.

    Saka, Ceballos and Willian will create tons of chances. Watch this place.

    1. So if someone disagrees with comments about player ‘x’ or formation ‘y’ they are automatically an Ozil fanatic?
      For goodness sake get over yourself will you!

  3. Formations are about players and what suits, e.g. Luiz is better in a back three, Tierney is better at left back, Pepe is better in a front three, Lacca is better in a front two and so on. Its about the balance, the chemistry and ability. The proof is in the results, we all hope the results will be better, it is a wait and see. I like a lot of the team, it is quality, my opinion still is, if we have to rely on certain players still, we will still struggle. If we get the balance right and the players right and available, we can all hope for better.

    1. Well said. We have all seen teams with good players underperform when they can’t get the system and balance right

  4. Joe, you are correct in your assessment that so much attack in the game comes down the wings. Thomas Partey will provide drive through the centre as well. He also adds physicality to the Arsenal midfield and may show Xhaka, how a player of his size should play.
    As we have seen at Arsenal, if all attacking play is through a CAM or #10, it is easy for an opposition to close that player down and stifle attack. This was often seen in how the top teams defended against Mezut Ozil.
    That is why the point of attack has to be varied, to test organize defenses.

    1. I dont think we want a creative midfielder to be the main focus of attack. We want a creative mid that can move the ball well and quickly, find runners, advance play. Partey fills some of these roles but wouldnt describe him as somebody who is consistently bombing into the box and finding our attackers. I think we may still have that problem where we sometimes find ourselves stuck in a game and become a bit predictable. If we were able to get in a player with a quick mind who can fasten our play in the final third that’d make a huge difference.

    2. I think the main reason why people want a CAM is because we are very low in the premier league rankings for chances created and shots on goal.

      A lot of that would seem to be because we commit so many numbers to defense that our attackers get the ball too deep to really challenge the opposition goal. Perhaps with Partey and Ceballos in midfield now we won’t have to sit so deep and we can win the ball higher up the field.

  5. I think it has been a fantastic window, especially with arrival Partey and given our current financial situation. Do we need an attacking mid, of course we do. However given the choice of Partey or an attacking mid, I would take Partey everyday. There seems to be a plan, and I would think that the arrival of an attacking mid will be the next piece of the puzzle. Hopefully the next transfer window.

    1. To retain the best striker in the league, sign a world class midfielder at a great price, and bring in a high quality CB, also at a great price, and all as a Europa League club, is truly remarkable! Top marks from the board on this one!

      1. That’s the least we should expect… it’s there mandate to do their job well and in real Sense they have underperformed for a while now… Arteta has woken them up and I and most if not all fans have started believing again.💯% The third Arsenal revolution is here guns blazing 👌

    2. Yes we need an CAM. But willian can play there and Saka is capable to play there. Heck with Ceballos and Partey behind him, call back Ozil.

  6. Gunnersaurus out Party in now with a work class midfielder and finally a viera replacement the tram is balanced and we should be gunning for the EPL no excuse.According to the mirror Partey Release clause ,agent fee,sign on fee and wages total is 110m from kreonke pocket.Kreonke due to the pandemic was allowed to fund the club for transfer of Partey hence the outlay on the deadline as we didn’t get funds from sales.

  7. Excellent article. Thank you for addressing the fact we have not stuck with a rigid 3-4-3 in most of the matches we’ve played this season! Tierney has been operating as a traditional fullback far more often lately and not part of a back 3. Luiz will shift from left to center throughout the game. I do think it is apps that people look at and assume they are accurate. Really it’s people making predictions based on what we have done in the past and the players in the lineup. Not 100% accurate though.

  8. “I actually feel like YOU GUYS look at formations on soccer apps and then wait for the results. It DOESN’T REALLY FEEL LIKE YOU watch games. If YOU did, I’d wonder how you figure the formation is defensive.”

    You guys?! You have every right to air your views mate but please don’t come here and try to insult the intelligence of your readers.

  9. I’m hoping for a Partey effect. More like the whole team playing much better just because he is playing. Bruno Fernandes had a similar effect last season for United after he joined.

    I’m not bothered about tactics and formations. I’m sure MA and Edu have discussed all the possibilities. Hopefully, he has it all figured out. I’m more interested in the team playing like they believe they can win the league. I’ll be satisfied with any match outcome with such attitude.

  10. Excellent article and one that echis the feeling that we have signed the missing link.
    I certainly believe we need a attacking creator and we have them in abundance.

    Martinelli, Cellabos, Ozil, Willian, Pepe… all could play in this position, knowing that they will have a organised and strong set of players behind them.
    I just can’t get over the options that the signing of Partey has given to MA and I think he will have a squad to rival anyone… just my opinion of course.

    1. My friend even with decades of watching football you think the players you’ve mentioned above can play in one position then I can tell you knowing football is not for all.Your obsession with the sickly Ozil says it all really.Jusst be a fan and stop with your embarrassing analysis

      1. Lord Denning, try to read and then digest what I have written before making such crass comments.
        I mentioned FIVE players, didn’t say that they could play in one position either.

        Still, I bow to your obviously superior football knowledge – just ask that you learn to read and digest comments before replying and we will get along just fine and dandy. 👍

        1. ken1945
          I’m not an Ozil fan, but I don’t hate him or want to chuck him away. The minute we signed Partey and may play 4-3-3, it’s becomes clear that Ozil will be very important in some games, where the teams may stifle us. Games like Brighton and Burnley we will need Ozil, especially at the Emirates where they will shut up shop and break. It would be negligent to leave Ozil out of the Squad.

          1. Ken, I agree with you. If Mezut Ozil is given an oprtunity to play in a three man midfield with Thomas Partey and Mo Elneny to do his tracking back, tackling and ball winning and can’t perform to his undoubted ability, then he is truly finished at this level.

    2. Ozil should be one to start. MA has a tough job to do, but he has a great squad to work with and spread through all competitions. All the best for this season.

    3. I’m surprised you included Pepe on that list. He’s so one-footed that I just can’t see him being effective in a play-making role. Out if the others, would love to see what Saka could do.

      1. Trudeau, I don’t care if he is one footed, if he can consistently replicate his goal against Sheffield United.

  11. OT
    Would anyone offer Wilshire a pay as you play deal?

    Homegrown, Academy product so would add to the numbers for both EPL and EL squads

    1. dont see what he would add. He’s hardly kicked a ball for West Ham the two years he was there. Despite his letter that he is fit, we know that only lasts for a few games at most. Why go backwards?

    2. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere (The Athletic) today. He’s obviously going to be looking to keep fit so will probably train at Colney where his old team mate Arteta could offer him a short deal. His wages wouldn’t be that much either.

  12. I am looking forward to seeing how Arteta uses the resources now at his disposal.
    “May you live in interesting times.” (a Chinese curse🤔)

  13. Two non home grown players cannot be registered in Arsenal’s squad for the EPL. A maximum of 17 non home grown players are allowed and Arsenal currently has 19.
    Who will Arteta and Edu not register?

    1. @Ozziegunner My guess would be Sokratis and Ozil given neither of them have been used really for a long time.

    2. They will probably have to choose from these these 3 players:Sokratis,Ozil and Kolasinac.The less chance to be included will be the first two.

  14. Oftentimes I get amused by the football “experts” on rhis site who will offer all kinds of advice based on what they hear or read from the so-called pundits. The above article has been plain and clear for any unbiased reader to understand. I have in the past expressed concern and displeasure at some vague notions which some of our people propagate as if they were some form of sacrosanct football truths!
    Look at the absurdity of spending time arguing that we need a creative midfielder instead of a strong defensive midfielder. There is standard language which all of us understand like defensive and attacking midfielder. Every player on the pitch is expected to create chances including the goal keeper. That is why he shoots the ball to strategic points. It is, therefore, erroneous to talk of a creative midfielder as a specialised position on the pitch. Being creative depends on the skill and guile of the individual players.

    1. David, the big issue at the Arsenal has been that it is hard to be creative, when your midfield is being bullied and overrun. Partey has often played in a four at AM, but will shine as the ball to ball midfielder in a midfield three at Arsenal.

  15. Joe makes some good points in his article , however I found the tone somehow condescending or is it me??

  16. True that Runs from forward players makes goals…
    But to feed those runs you need creative midfielder…
    Just reverse the situation… Pepe, Lacazzet or Aubameyang taking diagonal runs one after the another but if you don’t have a player who can provide killer pass through 4-5 opposing players, then those runs are wasteful….
    I am not saying that we need specifically creative midfielder…
    But MA’s style of play as 3-4-3 itself is too defensive and negative….
    If we change that to 4-3-3 with Partey, Xhaka and Ceballos as Midfield then we can have pretty good creativity if we give free role to Ceballos….
    Look at Liverpool. They play Fabinho, Keita, and Henderson as Midfield. Sometimes, Fabinho, Wijnaldum and Keita. None of them is any designated creative midfielder but Klopp’s tactics are not defensive…

    1. I agree,I would love to see Ceballos play as our CAM,he has the technical ability and vision to perform well in that position!

      1. That’s what I had said….
        Partey & Xhaka (or AMN) in front of back 4
        Cabellos ahead of them behind the front 3 of Pepe, Laca & Auba.
        Leno with Holding & Gabriel infront along with the full backs in Bellerin & Teirney.

        Not a bad team which Leaves;

        To come off the bench etc…

      1. Trudeau, Arteta and Edu have made the right choice, for anyone who knows what a good Arsenal midfield looks like.

  17. Well I am no Ozil supporter in the finance sense….but…….! Just heard the news that Ozil may be left out of the squad. That does not make sense. Having signed Partey I would have thought that Ozil would benefit in the football sense. We never signed Aouar so we need a creative player. Under Wenger Ozil was often important. Now he is getting older, but he could be the difference in certain games and that could mean top four or not. So I think it would be crazy not to have Ozil in the squad. I’m not his biggest fan but stupidity is not healthy. He still has attributes we need.

    1. Not having Ozil in the squad is a bit like ‘cutting your nose to spite your face’ as the saying goes. Just silly.

    2. Well Sean,which 2 non homegrown players do you suggest MA doesn’t register?Ozil is in his last season with us,I’d rather he concentrates on younger players who are going to be with us for the next few years,giving them “some” playing time and experience,Ozil has known for a good while now that he is no longer part of MA’s plans for the future,had he been that desperate to play he could have move to another club while still getting the same amount of money which he can still do,Middle East, China,South America,the US,it would have been the decent,honourable thing to do before the closing of the transfer window ,knowing that it would have freed a place for a new player and probably some money ,not only that it but no he probably would have come out of this situation with some credit even respect but no!!

      1. OK siamois if we play 4-3-3 see what happens if we play Partey, Xhaka and Ceballos together? It may not work the way you imagine. It’s good to have Ozil in the SQUAD. We have way too many CBs now, silly amount, and some are injured.

      2. Exactly. These people don’t get it. Ozil is finished at Arsenal. He will not play in the shirt again. He will not be in the squad for any game. He will not make the bench.
        OZIL IS FINISHED AT ARSENAL!!! Repeat that every night before you go to bed and it might sink in.

          1. Not angry. I can see things that are quite clearly visible and there for everyone to see but some people can’t see the wood for the trees.
            All the signs are there. It’s been said over and over but they still can’t comprehend it.
            I was trying to make it as simple as I could so they might understand.

        1. See anger, please. , no need for argument again now, l thought Ozil is taken the Mascot job of Gunnersaures

  18. Ozil and Sokratis are as good as gone, the only reason that they are still in our club is because they couldn’t be sold out cause of their unmerited high wages, so it will be a good decision to not register than them.
    So all Ozil lovers should just forget about seeing him.

    Arteta is switching back to the 4-3-3 formation.

    This was how we set up against Sheffield, in the second half, if you saw the goals you will know.


    Saka, Willian, Pepe,

    Ceballos, Elneny,

    Tierney, Gabriel, Luiz, Bellerin.


    1. S.J
      I am far from being a fan of OZIL and because of his drain on the finances I can find a multitude of reasons to send him packing……but….! If we are going to play 4-3-3 we will need a creative player. Whilst we were playing 3 at the back and wingbacks, we could break on teams, but playing 4-4-3 will not work without a creative midfield player in certain games. Otherwise the Brightons, the Burnley’s could well pick us off. It’s nothing to do with liking/not-liking Ozil, it’s about getting in to Europe.

      1. Pls we keep harming on a creative midfielder, is Ceballos not one, he’s stronger than Ozil,

        With Ceballos, Xhaka, willian and Partey, the midfield is great,

        Having Gabriel at the back also is convincing,

        Ozil is creative but weak and certainly don’t want any extra weight on the pitch.

    2. Will love to see Auba at the central forward position. He does it better than anyone in the team.

  19. Very good ,interesting article Joe.I am in your camp on virtually every aspect apart from the merits of the 3-4-3 system.First of all ,a team has never won the EPL nor the Champions League playing such a system.Let’s forget about playing Tierney out of position .He is a very fine LB or LWB but he will never be an effective LCB.The trouble with this system is it immediately encourages a team to play deeper than you would normally do with a flat back four.This in turn slows down the circulation of the ball, as the 3 CBs find themselves in possession of the ball more often than not being obliged to play safe short passes among themselves and the GO as they do not have the technical ball skills of quality midfielders or forwards.With the acquisition of Partey, I will be very surprised, and disappointed if Arteta does not switch to a higher line attacking 4-3-3 system .

  20. OT: Ozil’s offer to reimburse gunnersaurus’ salary an act of humanity or a dig at the board?

    1. Btw, this is my first comment here on the site. But I am not new. I have been following this site for more than 10 years now, having seen it transition multiple times in the process. I even have a article on this site ( although 7 years back) 🙂

    2. The interesting thing is that every commendable action Mezut Ozil takes is instantly communicated via social media to his followers.
      We are now learning what sort of a human being Thomas Partey is and his charitable works (like many professional sports people). Yet we have to do some investigation to find these details out.
      One player has a PR machine, others have the self satisfaction and modesty to do good work in the shadows.

  21. The reason we don’t create is because we cant control and win the midfield battle high enough up the pitch. Xhaka and Elnenny cant run with the ball, so we get overrun. Partey will improve that big style, Ceballos can play with a higher starting position because of that. The problem is the expectation on party do do the jobs the other two cant do. I suggest Elnenny would be better than xhaka and i would have suggested that Torreira or Gouendouzi would have been a better fit also but lets not go there. Partey will bring some much needed steel to the midfield and that will improve everything, defence, attack and service.

    1. Reggie

      Well put and well explained. I don’t think Partey and Xhaka can play in the same midfield.

      1. Sean, i dont rate xhaka good enough to play with anyone but they will in some games. I dont see the strengths of those two as a pair. I can to a greater degree Elnenny, he could actually work ok with Partey. Maybe next year if it all works out we may see Torreira or Gouendouzi paired with him in some games, i think both of them would compliment him. We will see how it all pans out this season first. But the biggest winner is Ceballos with his arrival.

  22. I wouldn’t say the team is extremely defensive. I would say it is more possession based.
    We saw it at the end of Wenger’s reign, with Emery and now Arteta.
    All this sideways passing and going backwards is about keeping hold of the ball and building the press. We work it forward and then come against a wall of defending. There’s no pass forward on so switch wings and try again. It’s the same, all forward passes are being blocked off so it goes backwards to build up the attack again.
    We need someone who can play cheeky balls through gaps to get in behind oppositions defences.
    I would like to see us be a bit more proactive. Fire shots on goal from just outside the box to test keepers instead of constantly trying to pass the ball into the net. A good quality creative player will find players in space to do that.

    1. Spot on Dan.I do think we could have done with a taller centre forward to bring on to get on the end of the crosses that Tierney provides.

    2. True if we built a press but 75 per cent of time it’s been sideways and back … that’s because elneny xhaka amn guendhouzi lacked skill and power … partey should change that allowing ceballos room to go forward … only worry is Luiz behind him … we were luckY against sheF u as he should have been off .. but guaranteed a big screw up every other game

      1. Agreed. I was certain that pull back was going to go to VAR and he’d get a red. Luiz is a strange player. He can have a storming game and then then next game have a brain fart and play like it’s a Sunday league game after having a few beers and a curry on a Saturday night. His and Xhaka’s best qualities are their leadership skills. Their both very vocal with team mates and give encouragement to the younger players. Take them out of the squad and there’s no leaders.
        It will be a very interesting season seeing how Arteta sets us up now.

  23. The need for a creative midfielder can be seen from the recent games of ours and also villa vs liverpool game.

    No control, no tempo.Take ceballos out of our team and you ll see how bad we are, specially against teams that park the bus.

    Its the main reason liverpool went for thiago, chelsea for havertz.
    Being direct wont always work

    Creativity is not found in all players.It comes with great technique and i think in our current first 11 ceballos,willian and pepe fits the bill

    1. Well said, but all we need to do is encourage William and Pepe to take on defenders now that we seem stable at the middle and back, the passing is good but too slow to build up.. we need pace to beat opponents and score goals..let me watch 2 games with Partey On, then I can judge our league position at the end…
      Good acquisition no doubt.

  24. “Y’all aren’t watching the game. You just see figurines on a mobile app or your TV screen and instantly run off to your favourite blog to whine.”

    How to insult your posters on this thread. Sound like you know and we know nothing ‘oh messiah’. It seems I have been watching but not understanding…..football….Arsenal. Truth is mate you are just a, self bigged up, insulting and rude person, who knows very little. Surprised Just Arsenal allow this sort of nonsense.

  25. Every player is given a role, on what to do while on the pitch of play. The coach uses every player’s attributes to counter act on the weakness of the team play.Lack of imagination, brings failure to win.

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